An Author’s Thursday Thoughts: How book one is doing, what’s up next, and cliffhangers.

Happy Thursday!

Happy Thursday! March seems to be going just quickly as February did! I hope you’re getting a lot done while the weather is still a bit dreary, as I know how difficult it is to get those words down when all you want to go is go outside.

I’m still doing the 2020 publishing predictions from Written Word Media with a dash of Mark Coker (from Smashwords) thrown in for good measure. But sometimes life gets in the way. My son had a procedure done that needs wound care, so that has created a new morning and evening schedule. It wasn’t serious, and he’s healing, but I’m still his mother and sometimes doing something while you’re stressed doesn’t work. Hopefully things will get back to normal in a couple weeks.

Until then, I can update you on a few things.

My second book in A Rocky Point Wedding will drop at the end of the month. My manuscript is loaded into the pre-order, but I still need to go in and add the pre order link to book three to the back matter. Not that it matters. Because I have one pre-order for book two. So I’m doubtful if putting the pre-order link in the back of book two for book three will do anything. Such is life.

His Frozen Heart went live on February 11th, 2020, and I suppose you want to know how the launch did. It didn’t break any records, and even though I tried to drum up a little enthusiasm, which is a lot more than I usually do before a release, it didn’t help. Since its release I’ve made $16.51 and that includes both KU page reads and ebook sales. I’ve had no paperback sales. I think the only thing I’ve managed to do is gather some bad reviews, which I have to admit, let bother me for a little while. Now I just shake it off because it is what it is.

I tried to keep an open mind given the fact that both the main characters went through something unpleasant. Truthfully, even the other characters seemed to be carrying enough baggage to sink a ship, which makes up for unnecessary drama.
This is a nice enough book, it started well for me then just went downhill fast because of some of the character’s wishy-washy attitudes. — Goodreads Reviewer

Anyway, I’ve blogged a lot about what I think is selling right now, and we’ll just see what happens with the other books I have lined up to release under a pen name this year. I think I’ll concentrate on the pen name for a little bit. I’m having more fun than I thought writing first person, and I have a continuation in mind that is spun-off from one of the characters from this new trilogy. I’ll spend my summer writing that, and honestly, trying not to worry so much about sales.


I’m done with the last book in my trilogy I just mentioned. It took a little longer than usual to finish this book, mainly because I wanted to make sure that I ended the trilogy on a good note, and end that book well in general. I have a tendency to rush endings because, well, it’s the end, and even with what I have I’ll probably add a little more in editing. I’ve been looking at stock photos for the covers, may have even picked out the couple since I managed to find a nice male and female in different poses that might look good next to each other.

But there is one thing about this trilogy that has me thinking now. I was scrolling through Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Facebook group and there was a woman posting about cliffhangers, particularly in romance. Should she, shouldn’t she? Do readers like them? Loathe them? A little of both?  As you can imagine, she got quite an earful, both pro and con.

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Then it made me wonder, I have a MASSIVE cliffhanger at the end of book one. I had already planned on releasing these books pretty close together, for that very reason. It’s one big story, after all. A reader has to read book one first, or two wont’t make sense, and reading three before either one or two, well, they just wouldn’t get anything out of it. Now I’m wondering if that’s the death knell for the whole entire series. I mean, I’m all for writing what you want, do that (at your own peril) and if I can avoid some issues before publication, then I should do that. But honestly, I have NO IDEA how I would fix the cliffhanger short of just taking a little bit from the beginning of book two and tacking it on there. But that’s silly. I started book two exactly where I wanted to start it, and it would water down book one’s ending.

It’s a dilemma.

As a writer, we don’t care we write cliffhangers, because the information and “what’s next” is at our disposal. But as readers, is it fair to make them wait, even one second? Would an excerpt from book two be enough to appease them?

I’ve already thought that this isn’t your typical romance. I might not even categorize these as such. Perhaps domestic thriller with romantic elements, or plain thriller, though there’s not too much mystery involved. The thing is, the couple featured aren’t together all that much, though the romance part of it is more than a subplot. I already knew in the back of my mind trying to market it as a full-blown romance won’t cut it.

That’s what happens when you write from your heart, kids. You have a book you don’t know what to do with.

Well, whatever, I suppose. I’ve had more pressing problems in my real life at the moment.

On that note, I am going to bed. It’s already been a long week. With my son’s wound care, sister time, editing for a friend of mine, and of course, all the cats doing all the things, I’ve been pretty busy.

There’s never a dull moment.

I hope all of you are doing well, and I will try my best to be back at it on Monday! Have a lovely weekend!

Happy Thursday!-3

 

Do you need money to write? A poor indie author weighs in.

There’s an article in the Guardian that is making the rounds on social media right now. Written by Lynn Steger Strong, she talks about writers and money. The title is an eye-catching:

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it.

If you read my blog, you know I love to talk about money. In particular, writers making money, or more precisely, not making money. This is a favorite topic of mine because I’m convinced there is money out there, somewhere, but only the lucky few find it, and even fewer are able to hang on to it for any length of time.

Lynn, (I’m sure she won’t mind if I call her that) publishes traditionally, has a Master’s in I’m going to assume, writing of some kind, and teaches college classes. That’s a pretty common way to be a “serious” “full-time” writer and author. Through her graduate program, she found an agent, and she teaches, again I’m going to assume some kind of English class, creative writing class, or even literature. She says her husband’s job helps, and she seems (according to the tone of the article) content, or at the very least semi-satisifed, to write and publish the academia way.

But not everyone can do that, or even wants to do that. A lot of writers I know whom I have met on Twitter, especially, don’t have an English degree, or American Lit, or Brit Lit, or have never taken a creative writing course. So, right away, opportunities (teaching jobs and agent referrals) aren’t accessible to many writers who want to go the traditional route. And surprisingly, many still do. It’s actually quite amazing to me how many writers want to query, want the book deal. They think theyr’e going to be the next JK Rowling, Cassandra Clare, Sarah Maas, Leigh Bardugo. They write epic YA fantasies, or they’re trying their hand at “serious” literary novels, wanting to be short-listed for the Booker, and they think “book deal” means money and fame, and really, does traditional publishing even deliver that anymore?

It’s no secret even if you get The Book Deal, you’re often on your own with marketing and publicity, (and editing. I hate throwing Jasmine Guillory under the bus, but go on Goodreads sometime and look at the reviews for her books. It’s a shame really, that her publishing house *cough* Penguin, couldn’t invest in a a couple editing sweeps and continued to let her flounder for many subsequent books) something new writers who query still don’t seem to understand. Even Lynn, in this article, mentions a published author spending her advance on a publicist. I suppose some want book deals because they think they’re going to luck out and land an agent who will hold their hand through their whole career. They’ll nurture them, and guide them, mold their novels into bestsellers. (Where did you go, Max Perkins?)

Publishing doesn’t do that anymore. In fact, Lynn’s way to publishing, I’m going to predict, will go the way of the dinosaurs in the next few years. Indie publishing is taking over, and the die-hards don’t want to admit it because there are still some successes. In Scratch, by Manjula Martin, you can read an account of how Cheryl Strayed lived hand to mouth with her husband while she wrote Wild. It paid off because she landed a huge book deal, and was able to pay off the credit cards they lived on while she wrote. She didn’t give numbers, but she also admitted that when Reese Witherspoon picked up her book for a movie deal, that also help her finances. I’m sure it did. She must have had a huge amount of faith to think her creative memoir was going to sell big. And she was lucky it did. Who else can put their rent on a credit card? I wouldn’t want to.

So, yeah, sure, you need money to write. Time is money, and if you have time because your significant other pays the bills, or your kids are old enough not to need daycare and you don’t have to make that up in wages, or you’re renting instead of buying and your rent is half the cost of a mortgage, you’re fortunate and have twenty hours a week to write.

But, you need money to sell your books. How many of you would really, let’s be honest now, throw your book deal advance into marketing? How many of you would would throw your 10,000 dollar advance at a publicist? Really? Whether you’re trad published or not, you still need to pay for marketing your own book.

This is where I think most people get hung up. They make time to write, and maybe it takes six months to a year to finish a novel. But then what? Never mind paying for ads. If you’re a debut novelist and you don’t have an MFA or even an under graduate degree in creative writing, you’re going to need a developmental editor ASAP, and those don’t come cheap. Because let’s face it, every day people publish absolute crap. They do. Some of them even know it, but they don’t know how to fix it. Everyone says, hire an editor, but people (often the people who can afford it) forget that a developmental editor costs as much as two months of my rent. I’m sure it’s that way for other people, too. Hmm, a roof over my head, or an editor? Sometimes you can’t choose. So they publish crap and moan when they don’t sell books.

Then there’s the cost of cover design and formatting and throwing a great launch, and paying for ads for the rest of your life.

You can be a writer–that’s free. It’s the rest that slows us down.

I understand where Lynn is coming from. Hell, I’ve even been tempted to try to apply to an MFA program. I picture us sitting around a university classroom, sipping on espresso and discussing why Hemingway was such an asshole, or if F. Scott Fitzgerald was a good writer because he was an alcoholic, or despite it. I picture myself pulling a Donna Tart and spending the next ten years writing the next great American, Pulitzer prize-winning novel while I teach English 101 classes to kids who can’t spell because our educational system is going down the toilet. But how am I living doing that? Hand to mouth because teachers don’t make anything, and programs at universities are shrinking because no one can afford school anymore.

What can you do then?

  • Recognize that it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time to start making good money. I’ve been writing and publishing for three years, and I made sixty dollars in the month of February–and you need to subtract the 20 dollars I spent on ads. A 40 dollar return on investment is nothing, and at this stage of the game, I’d be better off appreciating the fact that people are paying to read my books, even if that number is few. But, forty dollars won’t even pay my cell phone bill every month.
  • Do what Lynn suggests in the article and find a job that won’t zap all your creative energy so you have the mental and emotional capacity to still write at the end of the day while you’re trying to make it big.
  • Find the sweet spot between what’s selling and what you love to write. You don’t have to write a literary work of art. Half the battle is writing what people enjoy reading. 
  • Focus on craft. We all can do better with plotting, character arcs, and finding our voices.
  • Learn an ad platform and make it work for you. You can start small–five dollars a week.
  • Network with bigger players in your genre and see if you can get a little help with the marketing end of it with newsletters swaps and sniff out promotions that won’t break the bank. One can hope that you’ll always make more money than you spend.

There is money out there. There are readers out there. They want to read good books. Write one and then pay to find them.

No teaching required.


If you need proof there’s money in indie publishing, Publisher Rocket has the goods. I use that software to find keywords for my Amazon ads, and it scrapes data from Amazon. How much is the hottest contemporary romance novel projected to make this month?

51QY58RfpnLLauren Landish put out a book a few days ago: The Dare. At the time of this writing, it’s number 10 in the entire KINDLE STORE, and number 1 in her genre categories. Do you know how much that book is projected to make this month? Almost a quarter of a million dollars. Yes you read that right. It seems almost . . . I don’t know, illegal, to have that kind of information out there. So much for privacy in the digital age. But no one, especially traditionally published authors, wants to admit that that kind of money is out there. That it’s ACHIEVABLE. (I would also be amiss not to point out that her book is exclusive to Amazon, and I bet most of that money comes from KU reads since her book is available in Kindle Unlimited.)

And admittedly, that book is number one in contemporary romance meaning she must have worked her ass off to get that far, and she’s written a lot of books. So there’s no way I’m going to resent her that income. But let’s try the book that’s listed in the 100 slot in the top 100 of contemporary romance today:

The book is by Rich Amooi, and I have to admit, I’ve never heard of him before. He’s 41F7yYZ+yJLprojected to make $12,000 dollars this month. That’s a steep drop from Lauren’s paycheck, but probably you wouldn’t turn your nose up at that kind of royalty check from KDP.

Lynn, the author of the Guardian article, has a book coming out, Want: A Novel, and I wonder how much her advance was from Macmillan, how much of it went to her agent, and what her own plans for marketing her book will be when her book is finally published (it’s on preorder). I wonder if she looked at genre trends, researched the market before she wrote her book. I wonder how long her agent shopped it around before she found the book a home. I wonder if she’ll earn out her advance. She’s not going to make a quarter of a million dollars. I’d bet my next year’s royalties on it.

So where am I going with all this? 1900 words later, I guess I want to say that the money is there, but it depends on the path you choose to determine how long it’s going to take you to find it. I’m working my butt off–I write every day, I try to publish consistently and put out good books. My books haven’t caught on yet, and that’s okay. I’m exploring new things, (switching to first person present for one) and I’m flexible (I don’t mind learning what’s going on the indie publishing world). I’m lucky that my fiancé supports my writing–he pays my rent and makes a credit card payment every once in a while so I can buy groceries. My ex-husband pays me alimony and child support, and I do work. I piecemeal an existence together like a lot of writers. It’s probably why I sound so hardcore whenever I blog about writing. I don’t want to waste the time granted to me by other people’s generosity. I want to make that time count. My life would look very different if I didn’t have money coming in from different avenues, and I probably wouldn’t write as much. It’s Lauren’s numbers that keep me going.

I’m going to make it some day.

And you can, too.


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Is writing a hobby, or are you just telling people it is?

Happy March! I’m taking a break from my Written Word Media blog series on 2020 indie-publishing predictions to give you a blog post full of motivation that will hopefully bolster you through until Spring! I’m sure the New Year, New Me, New Goals enthusiasm has cooled off, but let’s find that spark to keep you going back to your laptop!

You teach people how to treat you-4

So, let’s discuss hobbies! Is your writing a hobby?  More than that? It’s probably not a career yet–not if you’re making twenty dollars a month in sales. But maybe you’re hoping your writing is somewhere in between a hobby and full-time profession. I fall into that crack . . . not making a whole lot, I still have a day job, but I put A LOT of time into my writing.

But when I take a little down time, I scroll Twitter, and the other day I came upon this tweet:

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All the comments were along the lines of “what a jerk”, or “how insensitive”, or “why would he say something like that”?

My first instinct was to agree, because I know not everyone’s significant other is supportive. But then I thought, wait. And I responded, “That depends. Do you take your writing seriously? Are you writing? Publishing? Querying? He can only see what you let him see.”

He didn’t respond, but he’s not the first person who’s complained people in their lives don’t take their writing seriously. And sometimes I wonder why that is. Oprah says, “You teach people how to treat you.” I believe this 100%. If you don’t take writing seriously for yourself, you have no reason to be offended when others don’t, either.

You teach people how to treat you

Do you defend your writing time? Do you respect your writing time once you have it? Meaning, do you actually use the time to write and not play on social media or secretly watch Netflix? Do you turn down friends if you haven’t gotten your words down for the day?

How can you get angry at someone calling your writing a hobby if that’s how you treat it? When someone doesn’t take you seriously because you find reasons you can’t write, or you keep breaking self-imposed deadlines, or that book you say is coming and never does, can you justify being angry when someone calls you out on it?

What can you do to change people’s perceptions?

  1. Change your own perceptions. Treat yourself how you want others to treat you. If you want to be treated as a writer, you have to write.
  2. Be realistic. Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time. Maybe 1000 words is all you can do in a day. That’s fine. You don’t have to put out 12 books a year to be a writer, or six, or three, or even one. You can only do what you have time to do. But if you’re wasting the time you do have, that’s no one’s fault but your own.
  3. Stop breaking deadlines. Or don’t make them in the first place. You announce goal after goal on social media hoping for accountability. And then you break deadline after deadline, promise after promise. What does that do for you? What message does that send to people on social media? You have to be accountable to yourself before others will hold you accountable. Keep deadlines and promises for yourself. Stop letting yourself down and you’ll build up your self-esteem and confidence.
  4. Protect your writing time and respect the time you’ve been given. If you’re not going to write during the time you fight for, why fight for it? Train your friends and family to understand writing is important to you. Then act like it is. And show them results.
  5. Realize you don’t have to be a writer. It’s okay to want to do other things. If you’d rather go out with friends, or be a gamer, or read instead of write. It’s okay to write two hours a week or write 1000 words a month. That’s your choice, it’s your life. But you can’t be upset when someone calls your writing a hobby because that’s what it is.

You show people what and who you are by your actions. Writers write. They produce books to query and publish, and going back to the guy on Twitter, I have no idea if he’s querying, or publishes, or writes short stories for magazines, or nonfiction for Medium or anything in between. I have no idea if his partner is right or wrong. He never replied. In fact, I don’t think I even follow him.

The point is, everyone pointed a finger at his partner, and I wanted to bring attention to the idea that it’s not always the other person. Sometimes it’s you. And if it is, there’s nothing you can say to defend yourself because you taught them to see you that way, and only you can fix it.

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This is one of the rare times I didn’t bring up money and writing (okay, maybe I did a little bit). Maybe that’s what his partner’s problem is–he’s not making money at writing, or like in my case and some of my friends’ situations, writing and publishing actually costs money. There’s not a lot you can say to someone who expects you to have overnight success (or any kind of success right out of the gate. Sometimes it takes years to find a foothold in this industry). All you can do is point out that without the work, there’s no success and hope that they accept it.

You teach people how to treat you-3

What are your plans for the rest of 2020? Land an agent? Publish a book? Do you have a big launch planned for this summer?

Get busy, and let me know how you do!

Thanks for reading!

If you want to read more articles on writing as a hobby, look here:

Writing: Is It a Hobby or a Job? by Brian A. Klems

Five Reasons Why Your Writing Matters (Even if No-One Will Take You Seriously) By Ali Hale


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Playing catchup and bending under pressure: a lesson in what not to do.

Hello, November!

Hello, everyone. Sorry I have been MIA. I think I did post last week, but I try to hit Mondays and this week was a fail. What have I been up to? Glad you asked!


Yesterday my proofer gave me back book one of series. He liked the story overall, and found some typos. I found some more running it through Grammarly, and I think it’s going to be as perfect as humans can make it. So, that’s book one down.

a rocky point wedding social media graphicWill I be able to start publishing near Thanksgiving like I hoped? Nope. I’ve decided I want him to read through all four and make sure they are consistent with details and plots. Waiting will make my life a lot easier if he finds anything. I could go ahead and start publishing because I’m hoping I would know if I left behind any giant plot holes, but I am not 100% confident in my abilities. I admire the authors who can publish books one by one in a series. I prefer to not chance it, but I should be able to start publishing before the end of the year, so I’m not that far off the mark. Editing always takes more time than I think.

Also, yesterday, I woke up in a lot of pain. My left shoulder blade and arm were hurting pretty badly. This could have been from all the typing I did on Monday since I transcribed the last of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT, and the final word count before editing came in at 80,500 words. Monday I transcribed to the tune of 6,000 words and that may have just been a little much.

But you know, I probably just slept funny. All those “after 40” memes are pretty accurate. Someone can look at me wrong, and my back will hurt the next day. Because aches and pains are going to be part of life from here on out, I try not to take too many pain meds and save them for the worst days. Yesterday was one of those days, and I took some before bed too, which gave me a decent night’s sleep. Except for the cats, of course.

I feel like my life is a box of clichés.


Anyway, this segues into something I’ve been thinking about.

We’re all under a lot of pressure. It’s something we don’t like to talk about. The pressure to create content, the pressure to publish. Especially in romance, the genre I write in. I haven’t published anything since May of this year, and that gap in a publishing schedule is practically unheard of (by authors who are making money). Never mind that in total this year, so far I have written four full-length novels and half of one that I started in December 2018.

We see authors cranking out content and we want to do that too. Sometimes we try. Sometimes we can, most times we can’t. This is a secret that I learned, and not that long ago.

You have no idea what is going on behind an author’s name. Or, more precisely, a pen name. You think, one name, one person. And a lot of time, I can’t say how many times because authors keep this secret pretty close, a prolific author name has two, three, or more writers behind it. It’s how they can crank out material so fast. We’re over here killing ourselves trying to keep up, and oh, look, a couple of top ten romance authors have two people writing the books.

I’m definitely not saying this is bad. If you can find someone who matches your style and you get along, hell yeah, collaborate. Why not? In fact, if you listen to any publishing prediction for any upcoming year, more collaboration is always one. Why? Because it’s smart. Why not share the work? Why not dominate in your genre if you can. Half of thousands in royalties is better than none, am I right?

But for those of us who write solo, it’s very deceptive. And it can be dangerous.

Another thing you have to watch out for if you’re comparing yourself to prolific writers is what the word count of their books is. Yes, they are writing full-length books, BUT, if you look closely, you’ll see that their catalog is peppered with novellas, novelettes, and even short stories. Lots of those are “add-ons” or “companions” to the full-length book, and it’s a fun way to give readers a little extra. But you do have to keep in mind that counting an author’s titles isn’t a fair way to compare how much time they spend writing versus how many books they have published.

I could publish two novellas a month if that how I wanted to build my backlist. For now I’d like to continue to offer my readers full-length novels of 70+ thousand words. You have to do what’s best for you and the readers you want to attract.

If you’re going to have comparisonitis, at least be smart about it.

Having passion and working hard at something doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When I used to run, I would run injured all the time. Anyone can tell you that’s bad, and it just sets you up for more injury. But whether it’s bad or not, it’s common. Runners even have memes about it:

runnign while injured

There are a lot more than this one, but it depicts how runners really feel about taking time off to relax and heal.

Writers can be the same way. I am very passionate about my SUPER SECRET PROJECT. It was fun to write, and I don’t feel like I was racing to get it done. It’s book one of a trilogy, and I probably won’t be able to release them until early next year when my series is out. Why was it so important I finish it so quickly?

zane and stella stats

 

 

Who knows, except, again, it was fun. But I could have afforded to go a bit slower, just to take better care of my health. Mental and physical.

There is pressure to publish, and to publish quickly. We scramble because it feels like other writers are gobbling up pieces of the reader pie and there won’t be any left by the time our book comes out.

The indie publishing space is drowning in books. But hurting yourself and making yourself burn out isn’t the way to make a grab for your piece.

Hello, November! (1)

I’m going to try to be more mindful of writing time. If I have twenty pages to transcribe, I have to remind myself it’s not a race to get them typed up.

Take care of yourself and don’t bow under the pressure. Especially with the holiday season coming. Sometimes you won’t have time to write, and that’s okay. Take a rest, tolerate enjoy your family, and eat a piece of pie while you watch TV. Just be mindful of what your goals are!

I’ll end with that for now. It’s early here yet, even though it’s pitch black outside. I have time to edit for a few more hours.

Just kidding!

No . . . I’m not. 😀

Have a great week everyone!


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You Can’t Have Something New if You Don’t Try Something New.

I’ve thought about this a lot in this lately. I see lots of posts from people who give themselves permission to not be uncomfortable. And I respect that. It’s tough being uncomfortable. You don’t feel good, it can make you have an anxiety or panic attack, it can make you physically ill. There are certainly bad kinds of uncomfortable. You don’t want to force yourself to be around someone you don’t like, or who gives you bad vibes. You want to listen to your gut, your intuition, and if it’s telling you to get the f*ck out of a situation, you do it.

But there’s something to be said for being uncomfortable. You can’t have something new if you don’t try something new. And let’s face it, trying something new is usually uncomfortable.

You can't HAVE something new, if you don't TRY something new.

You sit outside a building because you’ve never been in it before and don’t know where anything is. You sure as hell don’t want to go inside and make an ass of yourself wandering around. You wait outside a new meeting spot until you know a friend is already there so you’re not first to arrive and you have to sit by yourself.

A lot of people asked me if I was nervous going to that book signing a couple weeks ago. To be honest, no, I wasn’t.  There was the potential to be, sure. Who wants to drive fifteen minutes away, go into a conference center they’ve never been in before, set up all their books, and talk for six hours about their work to strangers, and hope they buy your books? Who the hell needs that when there’s Amazon, right?

I wasn’t nervous because I have a degree in Human Resources, and setting up for that book signing picture3book signing felt exactly like sitting at a table at a job/career fair. I did that a lot. A lot. On both sides of the table. I was used to standing, holding out my hand, making eye contact and, yeah, speaking. (Gross.) If I didn’t have two years of that behind me, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

But that’s the point of this blog post, too. Giving yourself permission to skip things because they make you uncomfortable won’t help you get anywhere. If I had let myself do that, I would have skipped the writing meeting where I met the woman who asked me to participate in the book signing in the first place. Let me tell you, the Monday evening we met, I was a nervous ball of energy, and I didn’t write all day.

As writers and authors, we’re going to be asked to do things that make us uncomfortable. If we strike it rich (and even if we don’t) we’re going to be asked to speak at panels, and give talks. Go to book signings, speak about our craft, our journey. We’ll be asked to encourage others, help others on the same journey.

While it’s okay to give yourself permission to avoid things you don’t want to do, keep in mind all that you’ll be missing if you can’t take that leap.

Many of us are afraid of change. We don’t want to find a new job, or we stay with a partner we may not even really like because breaking up is too hard. We don’t find a new apartment because moving sucks.

So think about what that means the next time you give yourself a pass, or encourage someone to skip something because it’s not what they want to do.

You can’t miss what you never had, but you may never have another opportunity.

1593399-Bobby-Unser-Quote-Success-is-where-preparation-and-opportunity

I really like this quote. Not only do you have to be prepared, but you have to be ready to take a leap, take a risk. An opportunity can present itself, but if opportunity is knocking, you have to be able to open the door.


public speaking joanna pennJoanna Penn has a new non-fiction book out about public speaking, called, well, Public Speaking. Public speaking sucks, and as authors, every once in a while we’re going to be asked to do it. Give a talk, participate in a panel. Even if we’re sitting in a writing group and we’re asked what we’re working on, you could have 2-10 pairs of eyes on you, listening to what you have to say.

You would think as writers all we would be asked to do is sit in a dark room and pour our hearts out into our laptops. This isn’t the case, unfortunately.

vlog like a bossAnother book that can help us put our faces out there besides Joanna’s public speaking book is Amy Schmittauer’s book, Vlog Like a Boss.  In it she gives out really great information on how to vlog, what to vlog about, and how to present yourself. It’s a good resource if you’re thinking about starting to put your author face out there!

Joanna’s public speaking book is also pretty cool, and since she’s been speaking forever, she knows what she’s talking about. I would recommend giving both these books a try.

Being uncomfortable sucks, but if you always give yourself a pass, you may never know what opportunities you’ll miss.

What have you done lately to step outside your comfort zone? Did it pay off?

Let me know!

nohting changes if nothing changes


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October is Prep for NaNoWriMo. Why I don’t participate.

Fall in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The temperatures cool, the leaves start to fall, and the bugs die. The last is very important to my well-being. Haha. Seriously though, we get a couple sweet weeks of no bugs, and mild enough temperatures that you can still enjoy time outside.

I went for a walk with my sister last night, and the latter half the walk was in the dark since the sun sets so early now. But we saw a couple deer, lots of rabbits, and generally had a nice coffee walk in about 48F degree temperatures.

nanowrimo logoOctober is also NaNoWriMo prep month. It’s the month when writers who are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month plot their books, do their research, make character sheets, anything they have to do to write their book as quickly as possible in the month of November.

I participated once. And while I was a newbie writer at the time and that was probably more of the reason why I wrote a crappy book, doing so on a timeline didn’t do me any favors, and I’ll never participate again.

But that’s not the only reason. Everyone needs to make their own choices with their writing schedule, their publishing schedule, and what they want to accomplish, but let’s take a moment to go over a couple reasons why NaNoWriMo may not be an answer to a writer’s prayers.

  1. Craft gets lost.
    If you have the motivation and skill to write 50,000 words in a month, you don’t need the the contest to spur you on. If you’ve got the craft thing down already, maybe craft doesn’t get lost when you write, and that’s great! But there’s always a question of quality when a writer who is new at this decides to participate. You don’t have time to think about how sentences sound, where your paragraphs are going, if your scenes are relevant to the story, what the theme of your novel is. Writing is already hard enough as it is, and putting a deadline on it makes it worse.
  2. Lots of writers will abandon a current project to start something new.
    This is a tough one because not everyone writes to publish or query. I’m not the type of person who likes to have three different projects open. I adhere to writing and publishing schedule. It’s the only way I can make any headway at all. Dropping everything to start a new project to write for NaNo would derail everything I’m trying to accomplish. I get distracted by new things, too, but I try to keep that under control and finish my current projects. I don’t think I’d have as many books out as I do if I let myself write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I understand not everyone is hardcore about this writing thing as I am, and that’s okay. But 30 days of writing something new is still 30 days of time, and in 30 days I can do a lot that will actually move me toward my goal.
  3. It makes us question what a “book” is.
    Let’s be honest. I mean, really and truly honest. 50,000 words, in most genres, is not a novel. It’s a good start to a novel, say, in high fantasy, or women’s fiction, but for the most part you can “win” and still not have a finished book.

    how long is a novel graphic

    Click on the graphic to read the corresponding article by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest.

    If you have trouble with subplots and character development while meeting the ideal word count, I don’t recommend trying to write under a deadline. Not always, but you can run the risk of having a full “novel” in word count, and it being incomplete in other ways. This is especially important if you ever want to query this book. Fully-developed plots, subplots without loose ends, full character arcs, and a spot-on beginning and ending are all things agents are going to require to sign you and your book.

  4. You’ll probably have a lot of editing to do afterward.
    This is a personal preference, of course, but I would rather spend a little more time writing and a less time editing after the fact. Editing is hard. Especially if you have to rip the book apart because you wrote yourself into a corner and there’s nothing that will fix it except scrapping the second half of your book, for example. Weaving character motivation and character growth into a book is hard enough as it is without having to go back and fix scenes.
  5. You shouldn’t have to depend on the NaNo energy to see you through a project.
    Most writers I know who participate, participate because they like the energy and the camaraderie. It’s why they do NaNoWriMo camp in July. They like to write with the buddy system, someone who will hold them accountable. The problem with this, though, is that NaNo is only once a year (besides the camp that’s held in the summer). What are you going to do during the other 11 months the contest is not going on? Writing is a solitary endeavor, and if you don’t get your butt in the chair and put the words down, if you can’t do that without a competition, well, I don’t have to tell you your productivity is going to tank. In my very humble opinion, striving for your own writing success, be that publishing yourself on Amazon or other platforms, querying, or whatever the case may be, that should be your fuel. Not a contest.
  6. What could your book be like if you hadn’t written it in November?
    We all have regrets when it comes to our writing. We write through sickness, or when we have a family emergency. Sometimes it’s what gets us through. I wrote through my divorce, I wrote (when I shouldn’t have probably) while I was healing from surgery. I wrote through one of the nastiest winters I have ever seen in Minnesota, and it happened to be the first winter I was a single mom. I have to admit, I write the best when I’m happy, when I’m not stressed out. When I can enjoy sitting at my laptop and not think about anything else but the story.
    We often say “let children be children” but sometimes we need to let our “books be books.” What I mean by that is, you may be doing your characters and story a disservice by rushing them. What could your book be if you write it organically? We meet word counts every day, but I’ve never preached you have to write every day. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like it. To reach 50,000 words in the month of November you need to write 1,666 words a day. That isn’t too bad, in all reality. But I know for me, November is a packed month: my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. We may have snow by then. Then there’s Black Friday shopping if you’re inclined to get a head start on Christmas shopping. It’s not hard in November to realize you haven’t written for a few days, and you’re behind. What kind of book could you write on your own time? 

I don’t see NaNo as some evil thing that writers shouldn’t participate in. I think it can be fun and motivational if used correctly. The month of November can be used to celebrate writing and books in general. There is a camaraderie just being a writer. We’re all in this together, and one month designated to writing doesn’t change the fact that we all enjoy writing every day. We don’t need one month set aside to enjoy it.

I create all year round. I’m involved in a lot of Facebook groups. I edit for my friends; I help them with formatting. I celebrate the writing and creation of books all the time. I don’t think a month goes by when I haven’t bought a book or ten. What I suggest you to do is harness how you feel in November and keep that momentum going all year round.

How do agents feel about NaNo? Here are a couple articles about their opinions. (Hint: it’s not a coincidence agents close their slush piles to submissions in December and January.)

An Agent’s Take on Nanowrimo by Fuse Literary

Better yet, DON’T write that novel
Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy

Did You Win NaNoWriMo? Let Agent Eric Smith Guide You Through Your Next Steps!
Leah Schnelbach

How do you feel about NaNo? Are you going to participate? Let me know!


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The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


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